Pen Test Vs Vulnerability Scan: A Quick Guide

BY Ray Stevens / ON Mar 25, 2021

Pen Test Vs Vulnerability Scan: A Quick Guide

Because so much of life is carried out online these days, it’s essential that you take all the necessary steps to protect your business interests - and this includes ensuring that you have your systems tested regularly to identify areas of weakness and vulnerability.

There are two ways in which this can be achieved - pentesting and vulnerability scanning. These are often confused as being the same thing but they have different benefits and one may be more appropriate for your company than the other. Let’s take a look.


A penetration test (or pentesting) involves a cyber attack simulation where someone attempts to gain access to a business system through detailed research and exploitation of any vulnerabilities discovered.

These analysts are often referred to as ethical hackers, because they’re not just trying to find the vulnerabilities in your system - they’re also trying to prove that they can be exploited.

The key, of course, is to compromise the data and extract it from your network but in a non-harmful way, so you don’t need to worry that your systems will be damaged after the work has been carried out.

There are various benefits associated with this kind of testing, but the main one is that you receive more thorough and more accurate results, which will inevitably give you greater peace of mind that your systems remain robust and well protected. In terms of disadvantages, it can take longer to have the test carried out and it is more expensive.

Vulnerability scans

Vulnerability scans are also known as vulnerability assessments, checking systems, networks and computers for vulnerabilities. Such scans can either be set up to run manually or you can set them up to run on a schedule, and they can take anything between a few minutes and a couple of hours to complete.

Once the scan has been completed, you will then be issued with a report showing which vulnerabilities have been detected. It will then be up to your IT department to fix the vulnerabilities that have been found, or confirm any false positives before scanning again.

False positives occur when a scan detects a threat that isn’t real. It can be time-consuming to go through the report and make sure that they’re all genuine vulnerabilities, but it is necessary to do.

Benefits of this kind of test include speed and affordability, but because it doesn’t go into significant depth, it is generally advisable to use both vulnerability scans and pentesting processes in conjunction with each other.

Why not use vulnerability scans weekly, monthly or quarterly to help you keep on top of security and then arrange for a more in-depth analysis once a year. If you’d like any help or advice or to find out more about pen test vs vulnerability scans, get in touch with us today.